Not a good start. But the Tigers still found the right way to finish.
Kenny Hilliard scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to cap a fourth-quarter rally for No. 13 LSU in a 28-24 win over No. 14 Wisconsin at NRG Stadium on Saturday night.
The Tigers trailed 24-21 when Jalen Mills intercepted Tanner McEvoy's pass at the LSU 47 with 11:04 left. Hilliard ran for 53 yards on the ensuing drive, sprinting through a hole on the right side to finish off the improbable comeback.
The Tigers extended the nation's longest regular-season nonconference winning streak to 46 games by overcoming a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter.
"We played sloppy, we did everything to the latest possible time before we decided to play best," LSU coach Les Miles said.
The Badgers seemed to have the game in hand after Corey Clement's 2-yard touchdown run after Gordon's run in the third quarter. At that point, Wisconsin had a 290-136 edge in yardage.
"I can't tell you the number of missed tackles, I can't tell you the number of missed assignments," Miles said. "And then we started playing better."
Colby Delahoussaye kicked two field goals and Anthony Jennings threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to John Diarse to start LSU's rally. Jennings hit Trey Quinn for a 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to three.
"They battled. They hung in there," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "I thought both teams fought like crazy. They made one more play than we did and won the game in the end."
The Badgers had dominated the game before the sudden turn of events in the final quarter. Wisconsin outgained LSU 182-16 on the ground in the first half and Gordon's long run to start the third seemed to continue the momentum. Wisconsin mustered only 65 yards in the fourth quarter.
"They've got a great defense and we've got a great offense," McEvoy said, "but we've got to make some plays when they're there and we didn't."
Hilliard finished with 110 yards rushing after being held to 11 in the first half. Jennings went 7 for 18 for 176 yards. He threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural in the first half and for most of the game, it seemed as if it might be the lone highlight for LSU.
The Badgers' defense, which lost eight starters from last season, shut down LSU's running back trio of Hilliard, Terrance Magee and freshman Leonard Fournette. Wisconsin's offensive line, meanwhile, was having its way with LSU.
Gordon had nine carries for 64 yards in the first quarter, including a 20-yarder to the LSU 45. On the next play, McEvoy faked another handoff to Gordon and gave it to receiver Reggie Love, who weaved to the end zone. The Badgers have led the nation in 40-plus yard runs in each of the last two seasons.
A 22-yard scramble by McEvoy set up a 51-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone and Wisconsin led 10-0.
LSU started a drive early in the second quarter with a false start penalty and then Travis Dickson took a short pass from Jennings and fumbled at the LSU 24. Gordon found another big hole and scored from 14 yards out with 7:36 left in the half.
Tight end DeSean Smith dropped an easy pass and Jennings badly overthrew Dural on the Tigers' next series. Miles turned to freshman Brandon Harris for a series and that didn't change anything -- he was sacked on third down and LSU punted again.
After Clement scored, Jennings found Dural for a 44-yard gain to the Wisconsin 8. But LSU settled for a 30-yard field goal by Delahoussaye. Delahoussaye tacked on a 47-yard field goal later in the third quarter to close the gap to 24-13.
Gordon finished with 147 yards on 16 carries. But Wisconsin still lost for the first time in 17 season openers.
"Pretty much since I've been here, we've been coming up short in big games," Gordon said. "Obviously, people will say, Wisconsin can't win a big game.' I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing that all year."
Wisconsin defensive end Konrad Zagzebski left in the first quarter with an apparent neck injury. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to Methodist Hosptial, but the team said early Sunday morning that he had been released and would travel home with the team.
ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. and The Associated Press contributed to this report.